By Evan Ren
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS By the time the Harker Heights baseball team had figured out Bryan starting pitcher Brandon Cortez on Tuesday night, the Knights' concession stand was already closing.
Mixing a sharp breaking ball and a change-up with an effective fastball, Cortez completely baffled the Knights en route to an 8-1 win.
Zach Verango was 2-for-4 with a double and Cortez helped himself with a 2-for-3 effort with two RBIs to lift the Vikings (12-5-1, 2-1 District 13-5A). Heights dropped to 9-11 and 1-2 with the loss.
"(Cortez) kept us off-balance and he had a good breaking pitch," first-year Heights coach Glenn Cunningham said. "He wasn't overpowering, but we just didn't handle him very well, for whatever reason."
Carrying a perfect game into the fifth inning, Cortez finished with a three-hitter through seven innings of work. He walked none and struck out eight.
Heights' Cody Dunn, who led the Knights with a 2-for-3 effort, broke up the no-no with a single to left with one out in the fifth. He later broke up the shutout as well, singling home Ryan Balentine in the seventh.
"Brandon faced one batter over the minimum through six innings, then we had a long inning and he got a little cold," Bryan coach David Powers said. "He had a very good change-up tonight and he didn't walk a soul that was the difference."
Heights starting pitcher Todd Abold was nearly perfect in the control department as well, with one walk through 6 1/3 innings of work. A few hanging breaking balls, however, proved costly, beginning in a three-run, three-hit Bryan second inning. Cortez provided an RBI double in the frame, as did Collin Janssen.
The Vikings hurt Heights again in the third, touching Abold for two runs on four hits, including doubles by Will Crain and Zach Verango, and an RBI single by Cortez.
"Todd hung a couple of pitches and they made us pay for it," Cunningham said. "They're an experienced club and they took advantage of our mistakes.
"But he settled in and pitched a great game except for the few mistakes he made early."
Abold, did, in fact, coast through the sixth, with three consecutive perfect innings. He later yielded to Nick Shumard with one out in the seventh after allowing a single to Kord Bratsen and walking Clay Joseph. Bratsen eventually scored on a passed ball, after which Joseph and Aaron Walling (whom Shumard walked) both scored on a two-out throwing error by Balentine.
Of the seven runs charged to Abold, four were earned. He allowed eight hits and fanned six.
The Knights will next see action when they travel to A&M Consolidated for a 6:30 p.m. game on Friday.
"We really wanted to get a split this week with two teams we felt would be in contention for a playoff spot," Cunningham said. "We still have that possibility."
Contact Evan Ren at firstname.lastname@example.org